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The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove, 12 September 2019

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... commissioned a series of what he thought were like-minded professional historians to advise him. Niall Ferguson was one; Simon Schama was hired to convene a committee to produce a draft. But Gove wasn’t satisfied. Ferguson wanted the curriculum to have a global dimension, which wasn’t what Gove wanted at all; the ...

Always on Top

Edward Said: From Birmingham to Jamaica, 20 March 2003

Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-67 
by Catherine Hall.
Polity, 556 pp., £60, April 2002, 0 7456 1820 0
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... empires that ruled Africa and Asia don’t seem quite as bad. The perplexingly affirmative work of Niall Ferguson and David Armitage scants, if it doesn’t actually trivialise, the suffering and dispossession brought by empire to its victims. More is said now about the modernising advantages the empires brought, and about the security and order they ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights, 21 June 2018

The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... justice warriors’ unites figures as seemingly disparate as Mark Lilla, Steven Pinker, Elon Musk, Niall Ferguson and Jordan Peterson. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign confirmed, however, that socialist ideals exist, beyond the experience of communist tyranny, as what John Stuart Mill called ‘one of the most valuable elements of human ...

Why we go to war

Ferdinand Mount, 6 June 2019

... held the field for quite a few years, but more recent historians have sought to push him aside. Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War (1998) argued that ‘no evidence has ever been found by Fischer and his pupils that these objectives existed before Britain’s entry into the war … All that Fischer can produce are the prewar pipedreams of a few ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 21 September 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism 
by Edward Luce.
Little, Brown, 240 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 4087 1041 8
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The Fate of the West: Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea 
by Bill Emmott.
Economist, 257 pp., £22, May 2017, 978 1 61039 780 3
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The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 
by David Goodhart.
Hurst, 256 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 799 9
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 143 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam 
by Douglas Murray.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 4729 4224 1
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... its colonial past are over.’ No matter that Britain had never apologised: like his fellow Scot Niall Ferguson, Brown wanted British people to feel proud of their empire. At a conference in 2006 on ‘the future of Britishness’, Brown outlined an American-style patriotism, provoking even David Cameron, newly appointed as Tory leader, to ...

The History Boy

Alan Bennett: Exam-taking, 3 June 2004

... of his own and his political viewpoint not in the forefront, but the new breed of historian – Niall Ferguson, Andrew Roberts and Norman Stone – all came to prominence under Mrs Thatcher and share some of her characteristics. Having found that taking the contrary view pays dividends they seem to make this the tone of their customary discourse. A ...
... to the traditional powers had never been seriously in question. To borrow the binary categories of Niall Ferguson, ‘towers’ prevailed over ‘squares’. Hierarchies beat networks. Power prevailed over ideas and arguments. The effort to make sense of this outcome gave rise to one of the most interesting and important intellectual consequences of the ...

Flailing States

Pankaj Mishra: Anglo-America Loses its Grip, 16 July 2020

... is the ultimate force in rolling back terrorism and tyranny.’ In the New York Times magazine, Niall Ferguson urged Americans to re-establish with ‘military force’ the British empire of ‘free trade’ and ‘balanced budgets’. In a cover story, the Atlantic described torture as a ‘necessary evil’. Andrew Sullivan called for the ...

How did they get away with it?

Bernard Porter: Britain’s Atrocities in Kenya, 3 March 2005

Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire 
by David Anderson.
Weidenfeld, 406 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 297 84719 8
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Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya 
by Caroline Elkins.
Cape, 475 pp., £20, January 2005, 9780224073639
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... In Niall Ferguson’s panegyric to British colonialism, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (2003), Kenya gets just one significant mention. It comes in the introduction, and is a description of his time there as a boy. It was three years after independence, but, happily, ‘scarcely anything had changed’ since colonial days ...

Some Damn Foolish Thing

Thomas Laqueur: Wrong Turn in Sarajevo, 5 December 2013

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 
by Christopher Clark.
Allen Lane, 697 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 7139 9942 6
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... First World War as a way of expiating the sins of the Third Reich in the Second World War. Again, Niall Ferguson’s provocative and brilliantly argued The Pity of War blames the British foreign secretary, Edward Grey, for dragging his mostly reluctant cabinet colleagues and thus his country into a war that spelled the beginning of the end of the British ...

Easy-Going Procrastinators

Ferdinand Mount: Margot Asquith’s War, 8 January 2015

Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914-16: The View from Downing Street 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock, selected by Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 566 pp., £30, June 2014, 978 0 19 822977 3
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Margot at War: Love And Betrayal In Downing Street, 1912-16 
by Anne de Courcy.
Weidenfeld, 376 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 0 297 86983 2
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The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush To War, 1914 
by Douglas Newton.
Verso, 386 pp., £20, July 2014, 978 1 78168 350 7
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... to remain a great power, let alone become a greater one. A similar argument is to be found in Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War (1998), where he offers a relatively benign counterfactual alternative: If the First World War had never been fought, the worst consequence would have been something like a First Cold War, in which the five Great Powers ...

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